How Blues Can Help Us - An overview
Civil rights leaders have urged young people to declare: “I Am Somebody!” The U.S. Army used “Be all you can be!” for a recruiting slogan. But nowadays, as they try to “be somebody,” today’s youth face tough obstacles. The job market is brutally competitive; drugs and violence lurk in many neighborhoods. Imagine growing up today. Might you feel tempted to join the drug dealers flashing their wads of money, if that’s all you know or believe you could be?
But what if you could find out that not long ago, your city was a hotbed for music and culture that spread all over the world? What if this music could help you express yourself—happy or sad, glad or mad—right now, today?
Regardless of our economic situation, don’t we all have times of being happy, sad, glad or mad? Then we all can share in blues music! In fact, writer Kurt Vonnegut said, “Blues music is a cure for the worldwide epidemic of depression.”
Chicago School of Blues travels to schools and community centers to offer concerts, classroom workshops and afterschool programs. Teaching artists and professional blues musicians introduce young people to the sound and history of this powerful music, which is not easily available on the radio or in stores. The musicians, many from Chicago's West and South Sides, are currently under-recognized in the music industry and underemployed in the Recession. Nevertheless, they understand the historical significance of their music, and delight in sharing this gift with new generations. Meanwhile, the kids think it's totally cool!
Blues makes hard times bearable and sharable for everyone. We’re just waiting to play some blues with you! Prices for our programs depend on number of staff, time and distance, and equipment. We also work to arrange funding for schools and community centers in low income areas.
Concerts - We'll Play the Blues for You
Chicago School of Blues professional musicians are available as a full five to seven piece band for concerts at schools, colleges, community centers, corporate functions and other venues.
At each educational concert we explain some of the history behind the repertoire of post-World War II Chicago blues, soul, funk and R&B.
Seeing a professional band wield their instruments can be an awe-inspiring moment for youth, motivating them to discover their own talents. They’ll see and feel the beat of the drums and hear the story told by the singer; the harmonies and riffs of the guitars and keyboard; the bass line that moves and shakes, the pleadings of horns and harmonicas. They’ll watch the band cooperate together to make the music happen.
History workshops - Blues is the Root
The elders of many of today’s students brought the blues to Chicago. This sound burst forth as African-Americans sang together to cope with hard work in early 20th century cotton fields and levee camps of the South. They sang about low pay, unfair bosses and families being split up, but they sang about the joy and fun times as well. Simply, the music made people feel better while acknowledging the hard truths of life. Blues is the root of American popular music—R&B, rock, hiphop, gospel, soul, funk, jazz, even country! The sound and feeling of this music has captured hearts around the world.
Our workshops introduce students to earlier stars like Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Willie Dixon, who have influenced what we play on our iPods today. Just as devotees of cultural traditions work hard to preserve the sound of bagpipes in Scotland, Neapolitan ballads in Italy, or the performance of Shakespeare plays from England, we want to make sure young people experience the roots of the blues tradition.
Sing Your Own Blues - Make up a verse
In this workshop, youngsters compose and sing a simple three line blues verse--happy, sad or funny: “The dog ate my homework, please have mercy on me…” This helps them learn to express themselves and realize others feel the same way and often share the same situation. It’s a step towards less isolation and more civility.
Sing and Dance Together
As students begin to experience personal power by singing their own songs, we encourage classmates to support them by singing along. This African American style of music builds community and teamwork. Voices come together; musicians help put words to music. Everybody contributes: clapping, singing backup, and rapping rhymes between verses. Everyone finds their voice. When children feel inspired to dance, we guide them in coordinating their movements. The vision: joy and self discipline. Dance to the music!
Student Band Jam - Practice playing together
Students who’ve begun to play a musical instrument can learn to play a 12-bar blues and other common music patterns together in an ensemble. The 1-4-5 blues progression comes from the same chords that make up European classical music. When you learn a blues pattern, it's easier to understand basic music concepts. Professional musicians will be on hand to coach and encourage the students.
Organic Music and Movement
Children today are overstimulated and many have problems focusing, as media, technology, and peer pressure compete for their attention. At the same time, American child obesity has reached epidemic proportions across every income level and community. Youth need help to get in touch with their bodies, their feelings and their heritage.
The music that kids listen to is too often becoming the most influential force in their lives. CSB approaches music, movement and exercise with a fresh perspective and no judgement. A noncompetitive classroom environment leaves each child free to focus on their own goals. We help the children explore how they can use music and sound to empower and invigorate their body and mind. We provide a safe opportunity for youngsters to exercise, build community and move toward more civility and less isolation. We help children interact positively with each other, and help them form wellness practices they can carry into their adult lives.
Children learn to think of their own bodies as musical instruments—voices as well as percussion.To further connect bodies and minds, children learn yoga stretches and receive training in healthy lifestyle practices. CSB's movement training reinforces a child’s self-awareness. It can help them make wise choices in dealing with peer pressure and other stress in the outside world.
Children in CSB programs will develop personal power skills that enhance their creativity and self-discipline. The therapeutic affects of sound combined with movement enhance the overall impact and make for a unique, dynamic and enriching experience.
Training for Teachers
CSB's training workshops for adults create a safe space for stressed-out teachers to reconnect with their own experiences and feelings. After CSB's session at the Chicago area 2011 Tutor Mentor conference, one teacher-mentor wrote: "I'm always focused on lesson plans. I forget how powerful music and movement are. I'm amazed that blues music has so much more depth than I gave it credit for."
A Word from A Sponsor - Final Feliz Foundation
The Final Feliz Foundation www.finalfelizfoundation.org and its partner, the Chicago School of Blues, acknowledge and direct the needs of children and adults for movement, self expression, artistic discipline, positive group belonging,and making conscious lifestyle choices toward personal safety and growth.
According to the original Latin word educere, “educate” means to “bring out” or “lead out.” A good teacher brings out the best in students. Instruction that tries to stuff facts and skills into young brains doesn’t work with people whose first need is motivation. Children crave attention and someone to care about them. Once they feel emotionally safe in a classroom, they can agree to be directed or corrected by a teacher, or each other, if they sense that the intention is pure.
Blues education is based on “educere”-- bringing people’s talents out and fostering their development as human beings. In these times of economic insecurity, educators must focus on drawing out the best in people. Because we’re all going to need each other to get through the hard times and find more sustainable ways of living with each other on our planet.
In this spirit, the Chicago School of Blues, supported by Final Feliz, seeks to open the door to a safe space for lifelong learning, using the elegantly simple form of blues music.
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